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"Global Environmental Justice and the
Environmentalism of the Poor" by Joan Martinez-
Alier (2016) The Oxford Handbook of
Environmental Political Theory PDF
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"Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor" by Joan
Martinez-Alier (2016) The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory PDF
1. 1. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 1 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Global Environmental Justice
and the Environmentalism of the Poor Joan Martinez-Alier The Oxford Handbook of Environmental
Political Theory Edited by John M. Meyer, Teena Gabrielson, Cheryl Hall, and David Schlosberg
Abstract and Keywords There are an increasing number of ecological distribution conflicts around the
world ultimately caused from the increase in the metabolism of the economy in terms of flows of
energy and materials. There are resource extraction conflicts, transport conflicts, and also waste
disposal conflicts. Therefore, there are many local complaints. Since the 1980s and 1990s there has
been a globalizing environmental justice movement that in its strategy meetings and practices has
developed a set of concepts and slogans to describe and intervene in such conflicts. They include
“environmental racism,” “popular epidemiology,” “the environmentalism of the poor and the
indigenous,” “biopiracy,” “tree plantations are not forests,” “the ecological debt,” “climate justice,”
“food sovereignty,” “water justice,” and so on . . . These notions have been born from socio-
environmental activism but sometimes they have been taken up also by academic political ecologists
and used in their analyses. Keywords: environmental justice, environmental racism, environmentalism
of the poor, climate justice, political ecologists T H Efundamental clash between economy and the
environment comes from two main drivers. First, population growth. Second, the changing social
metabolism, or flows of energy and materials, of industrial economies, which causes environmental
conflicts (Fischer-Kowalski and Haberl 1997; Steinberger et al. 2010; Muradian et al. 2012; Martinez-
Alier, Temper, and Demaria 2014). Energy cannot be recycled. Therefore, the energy from the fossil
fuels is used only once, and new supplies of coal, oil, and gas must be obtained from the “commodity
frontiers” (Moore 2000). Similarly, materials are recycled only in part, and therefore, even an economy
that would not grow would need fresh supplies of iron ore, bauxite, copper, and paper pulp. The
economy is not circular, it Print Publication Date: Jan 2016 Subject: Political Science, Political Theory,
Comparative Politics Online Publication Date: Mar 2016 DOI:
10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199685271.013.25 Oxford Handbooks Online
2. 2. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 2 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 is entropic (Haas et al. 2015).
Meanwhile, renewable resources such as aquifers, timber, and fisheries are overexploited, and the
fertility of the soil is jeopardized. Thus, the social metabolism of industrial economies gives rise to
growing numbers of resource extraction conflicts and also waste disposal conflicts (including on a
global scale that arising from the production of an excessive amount of carbon dioxide). Such
ecological distribution conflicts sometimes overlap with other social conflicts on class, ethnicity or
indigenous identity, gender, caste, or territorial rights. The perception of such injustices (particularly
regarding waste disposal) gave rise to a widespread social movement in the United States in the early
1980s with roots in the civil rights movement. The words “environmental justice” (EJ) began to be
used in a sociological sense in the United States in struggles against the disproportionate dumping of
toxic waste in urban or periurban African–American areas. Environmental justice is a powerful lens
through which to make sense of many struggles over the negative impacts that the increasing
metabolism imposes on human livelihoods and nature (p. 548) conservation worldwide (Gottlieb
2005). As early as 1991, at the Washington DC multinational “People of Color Environmental
Leadership Summit” broader ties were forged so as “to begin to build a national and international
movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities.”
The principles developed at the summit spoke to the world, and not to a minority. Participants wanted
to establish humans’ spiritual interdependence to the sacredness of our Mother Earth; to respect and
celebrate each of our cultures, languages, and beliefs about the natural world and our roles in healing
ourselves; to ensure EJ; to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development
of environmentally safe livelihoods; and, to secure political, economic, and cultural liberation that had
been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of
communities and land and the genocide of peoples. The related concept of the “environmentalism of
the poor” (applied to rural and sometimes indigenous populations in India and Latin America) was
introduced by activists and academics in the late 1980s contributing to a global EJ movement which
was in full swing and aware of itself by the 1990s. Academic work has been published since the mid-
1990s, if not before, making explicit connections between the EJ movement in the United States and
manifestations of the environmentalism of the poor in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (Guha and
Martinez-Alier 1997, 1999; Varga et al. 2002). This connection was obvious after the deaths of Chico
Mendes in Brazil in 1988 fighting deforestation and of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni comrades in
Nigeria in 1995 fighting against Shell. Classic books analyzing EJ movements against dams (McCully
1996) and against tree plantations (Carrere and Lohman 1996) were published by activists working
outside academia.
3. 3. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 3 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Critical to the development of
global EJ networks and activist movements has been the conceptual language that has arisen from
particular conflicts. In conjunction with work on the Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities
and Trade (EJOLT) research project (http://www.ejolt.org 2011–15), in this chapter we present a set of
concepts with origins outside academia and which are used by the global EJ movement (Sikor and
Newell 2014). On their own or sometimes with the help of sympathetic academics the environmental
justice organizations (EJOs) have produced a series of powerful concepts linked to practice or what
Charles Tilly called “repertoires of collective action” (Tilly and Tilly 1981; Martinez-Alier et al. 2014).
Short definitions and the dates of origin of such concepts are provided in Table 36.1. While there are
some concepts of academic origin (such as “working class environmentalism” (Barca 2012),
“ecologically unequal trade” or “strong sustainability”) that are also used or could be used by the
global EJ movement, we focus on concepts of non-academic origin. The first concept in the list is
“environmental justice,” born in the United States in struggles against waste dumping in North
Carolina in 1982. Activist authors such as Robert Bullard, but also civil rights activists with no
academic affiliation and members of Christian churches, saw themselves as militants of EJ (Bullard
1999; Bryant and Mohai 1992). Brilliant research has been done in this field of which only a small
sample can be given here (Pellow 2000, 2002; Agyeman et al. 2003). The fight against the (p. 549) (p.
550) (p. 551) disproportionate incidence of pollution in areas predominantly black, Hispanic, or
indigenous was also seen as a fight against “environmental racism,” a concept that in the EJOs’
language means to treat badly other people in pollution or resource extraction injustices on grounds of
membership of particular ethnic groups, social class or caste. In the EJOLT inventory of environmental
conflicts (http://www.ejatlas.org), we find that in many countries indigenous populations are involved
in ecological distribution conflicts much more than one would expect by their share of population in the
country as a whole. All of these populations have responded to being made more vulnerable to the
social metabolic demands and processes of industrial economies.
4. 4. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 4 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Table 36.1 The Vocabulary of
the Global Environmental Justice Movement EJOs, authors promoting it Short description
Environmental justice (EJ) USA Civil Rights Movement, North Carolina 1982 against environmental
injustices (Bullard 1990, 1999). “People of color” and low-income populations suffer disproportionate
harm from waste sites, refineries and incinerators, and transport infrastructures. Environmental racism
Rev Benjamin Chavis c. 1982 The fight for EJ, against pollution in black, Hispanic, and indigenous
areas, was seen as a fight against environmental racism. Ecological debt Instituto Ecología Política,
Chile 1992, Acción Ecológica 1997 Rich countries’ liability for resource plunder and disproportionate
use of space for waste dumping (e.g. GHG). Popular epidemiology Brown 1992, 1997 “Lay” local
knowledge of illnesses from pollution may be more valid than official knowledge (sometimes absent).
Environmentalism of the poor Agarwal/Narain (CSE, Delhi) c. 1989; Blanco 1991. Struggles by
poor/indigenous peoples against deforestation, dams, mining, etc.; proactive collective projects for
water harvesting, and forest conservation. Food sovereignty Via Campesina c. 1996 People’s right to
healthy, culturally appropriate, sustainably produced food. Right to define own food and agriculture
systems.
5. 5. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 5 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Biopiracy RAFI (Pat Mooney)
1993, popularized by Vandana Shiva Appropriation of genetic resources (in medicinal or agricultural
plants) without recognition of knowledge and property rights of indigenous peoples Climate justice
CES (Delhi) 1991, Durban Alliance, CorpWatch 1999–2002 Radically reduce excessive per capita
emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHG. “Subsistence emissions vs. luxury emissions.” Water
justice, hydric justice Rutgerd Boelens, EJOs in Latin America (e.g. CENSAT) 2011. Water should not
run toward money, or toward power. It should go to those needing it for livelihood. Water as human
right Pablo Solon (Bolivian envoy to UN), Maud Barlow (Council of Canadians) 2001 Human right to
water recognized at UN level in 2011, as an independent human right. “Green deserts” Brazil, network
against eucalyptus plantations, Rede Alerta contra o Deserto Verde, 1999 Brazilian local term for
eucalyptus plantations, used by networked CSO and communities, also by researchers and activists for
any tree plantation. Tree plantations are not forests Pulping the South by Carrere and Lohman, World
Rainforest Movement, 1996 The WRM collects and spreads information on tree plantation conflicts. It
proposes a change in the FAO definition of forest, to exclude tree monocultures. Land grabbing
GRAIN (small pro- peasant EJO) 2008 The wave of land acquisitions in Southern countries for
plantations for exports, leading to first statistics on land-grabbing.
6. 6. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 6 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Resource caps Resource Cap
Coalition, RCC Europe, c. 2010 It advocates reduction in global resource use and in poverty. It calls for
a European energy quota scheme and the ratification of the Rimini protocol. To Ogonize/ Yasunize
ERA Nigeria, Acción Ecológica, Oilwatch 1997–2007 Leave oil in the soil to prevent damage to
human rights and biodiversity, and against climate change. Adopted by anti shale gas fracking, tar
sands, and coal mining movements. Rights of nature Ecuador, Constitutional Assembly 2008 In
Constitution of Ecuador 2008, art 71, promoted by Acción Ecológica and Alberto Acosta. Actionable
in court. Corporate accountability Friends of the Earth International 1992–2002 At UN Johannesburg
summit in 2002, FoE proposed the adoption of a Corporate Accountability Convention, against
lukewarm CSR principles. “Critical mass,” cyclists rights San Francisco 1992 (Chris Carlsson)
International movement reclaiming the streets with cyclists marching to impose cyclists’ rights. Urban
waste- recyclers movements c. 2005, GAIA against incineration and “energy valorization” of urban
waste. Unions or cooperatives of urban waste gatherers, emphasizing positive environmental impact,
including climate change (in Delhi, Pune, Bogota, etc.). Urban “guerrilla food gardening” c. 2000,
started by “food justice” networks Vacant lot food growing, permaculture, community gardening
movements in cities around the world.
7. 7. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 7 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Toxic colonialism, toxic
imperialism BAN, Basel Action Network, c. 2000, Greenpeace Fighting the long-distance export of
waste from rich to poor countries, forbidden by the Basel Treaty. e.g. ship-breaking in India or
Bangladesh, chemical residues or nuclear waste, electronic waste. Post-extractivism Latin America
2007, Eduardo Gudynas (CLAES), Alberto Acosta, Maristella Svampa Against the reprimarization of
Latin American economies. Transition to a sustainable economy based on solar energy and renewable
materials. Impose quotas and taxes on raw materials exports. Buen Vivir, Sumak Kawsay Ecuador and
Bolivia 2008 Adopted in constitutions of both countries, inspired by indigenous traditions and by the
“post- development” approach. Indigenous territorial rights, and prior consultation Convention 169 of
ILO, 1989; adivasi forest rights in India . . . In conflicts on mining, oil exploitation, dams, etc.,
communities campaign for legislation defending indigenous rights. “Sand mafias” Name given c. 2005
by environmental movement, journalists The illegal “mining” of sand and gravel in India in many
rivers, driven by the growing building and public works industry. “Cancer villages” In China, popular
name adopted by academics, officials (Lora-Wainright 2013) Rural villages where industry has caused
pollution (e.g. heavy metals), where lay knowledge of illness is relevant, and subdued protests take
place. In EJ conflicts, evidence of disproportionate incidence of morbidity or mortality sometimes
cannot be proven from official statistics because of the lack of doctors or
8. 8. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 8 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 hospitals in the areas concerned.
Hence the rise of so-called “popular epidemiology” (Brown 1992, 1997), a concept of relevance in
many struggles inside and outside the United States—think for instance of the attempts by the plaintiffs
in the Chevron-Texaco case in Ecuador to gather information in the 2000s related to the 1970s and
1980s of the incidence of cancer in the Sucumbios region of the Amazon by resorting to the memories
of the local populations, proving that such memories concentrated around areas with wells and pools
for disposal of extraction water (Martin Beristain et al. 2009). Popular epidemiology implies that “lay”
knowledge of pollution illnesses is as valid or more valid than official knowledge. In the academic
discussion it is a concept that fits into the “post-normal science” theory (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993)
and “street science” (Corburn 2005). Reflecting the specific environmental challenges and
distributional inequities of the global South, some EJOs adopted the term “environmentalism of the
poor.” It is very close to the notion of EJ born in the United States but it applies less to urban than to
rural peoples in the global South involved in extractive conflicts, similar to the Navajo in New Mexico
who suffered from uranium mining. Although academics (Ramachandra Guha and the present author)
started to use this term in 1988–89 (drawing on research on India and Latin America), it is clear that
the idea and perhaps the very words had been used by Anil Agarwal, the founder of the Centre for
Science and Environment (CSE) in Delhi, and editor of the first “citizens’ reports” on the state of
India’s environment. His successor, Sunita Narain, often uses the term “environmentalism of the poor”
to refer to the struggles in India against dams, deforestation, mining projects, and nuclear power (p.
552) stations (Narain 2008). The concept goes back to the 1980s in the activist tradition of the CSE and
other EJOs in India to refer to the many struggles by poor and/or indigenous peoples against resource
extraction and for nature conservation. Shrivastava and Kothari (2012) have compiled many socio-
environmental struggles and successes in India ending with a proposal for a radical ecology democracy.
The concept was also used by the well-known Peruvian peasant activist Hugo Blanco in 1991 who
gave a list of conflicts some of which are still active (Blanco 1991). The “environmentalism of the
poor” (and of the indigenous) is a concept opposed to the “post-materialist” interpretation of
environmentalism (and other new social movements) by Ronald Inglehart (Inglehart 1995). It neither
essentializes environmentalism with poor or indigenous populations (see Godrej, this volume), nor
envisions environmental preservation as a luxury good as does Inglehart. In contrast to Ulrich Beck’s
view of environmental risks as being impartial to social class (as might have been the case for a nuclear
accident such as Chernobyl but which is not true in general—for example, for hurricane Katrina in
New Orleans) (Beck 1992), the environmental movements of the poor and indigenous are place-based
struggles for their own material livelihoods (Nixon
9. 9. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 9 of 23 PRINTED FROM
OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015.
All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF
of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy
Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 2011). In many resource
extraction and waste disposal conflicts in history and today, the poor are often on the side of
preservation of nature against business firms and the state. This behavior is consistent with their
interests and their values, including the defense of indigenous territorial rights and claims regarding the
sacredness of particular elements of nature (a mountain, a forest, or even a tree). It is also consistent
with concerns for social justice, including claims to recognition and participation, and builds on the
premise that the fights for human rights and environment are inseparable. When livelihood and values
are threatened, those affected will be motivated to act provided that there is a sufficient degree of
democracy and they are not suffocated by fear or violently repressed, as is often the case. In the EJOLT
inventory (n. 1354, April 2015) in 12 percent of conflicts one of the outcomes is “deaths.” One of the
primary environmental challenges faced by populations of the global South stems from an economic
system that produces “ecologically unequal trade,” an academic concept (Bunker 1985; Hornborg
1998, 2005; Hornborg et al. 2007). One aspect of such unequal trade was given the name of biopiracy
(by Pat Mooney of RAFI in 1993, Shiva 1997). Biopiracy denotes the appropriation of genetic
resources (in medicinal or agricultural plants) without any recognition of the original knowledge and
“property rights” of indigenous peoples. The examples of such robbery are indeed numerous. The word
“biopiracy” has been used in many complaints by EJOs. Even state authorities in countries like Brazil
and India have started to use this term. Academics writing in scientific journals and doctoral students in
their theses also use it (Robinson 2010). There are a number of other EJO concepts and policies that
stem from conflicts over biomass. The complaints against tree plantations of eucalyptus, acacia, or
gmelina, grown for wood or paper pulp, depriving local people of land and water, gave rise 20 years
ago to the slogan and movement “Plantations are not forests.” In Brazil, “green deserts” was the
spontaneous, bottom up name for eucalyptus plantations in Espiritu Santo and other regions, opposed
by local peasants and indigenous peoples. This was (p. 553) certainly a form of enclosure of forest
commons. The driving force was the export of paper pulp and cellulose. Relatedly, the concept “food
sovereignty” was introduced in the early 1990s by Via Campesina, an international movement of
farmers, peasants, and landless workers. Food sovereignty means the right of rural people (including
women in particular) to grow their own food for themselves and for local markets, against corporate
agriculture, particularly against agrofuel and tree plantations (Schutter 2012; GRAIN 2005). A small
organization called GRAIN (a partner of RAFI in the 1980s and 1990s in the fights against agricultural
“biopiracy”) introduced the term and the first statistics for “land-grabbing” in 2008 for the new wave of
land acquisitions often by force in Southern countries, for new
10. 10. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 10 of 23 PRINTED
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Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may
print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details
see Privacy Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 plantations for
exports. The term was then taken up by the Journal of Peasant Studies in special issues under Jun
Borras’ editorship. A term from the EJOs that has been very successful in the fights against
ecologically unequal trade and climate change is that of the “ecological debt” (Robleto and Marcelo
1992; Borrero 1994). There was an alternative treaty in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 on the ecological debt
from North to South, and Acción Ecológica of Ecuador took the term and the struggle up in 1997, with
several publications which included a definition and many examples. The ecological debt arises from
the plunder of resources and also from the occupation of disproportionate environmental space by the
rich countries (for example, to deposit excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the oceans and the
atmosphere, which belong to all humans equally). Some governments from countries of the South have
deployed the concept of “ecological debt” (or one part of it, the “climate debt”) in international
negotiations on climate change (Bond 2010). In the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference of
the Parties (COP), perhaps over 30 heads of government or ministers talked about the ecological debt
awakening the fury of the US Ambassador, Todd Stern (Reuters 2009). The origin of the concept and
many of the theoretical developments are mainly due to Latin American EJOs, and to some extent also
to the international Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Jubilee South (Friends of the Earth 2005).
Academics joined in later doing some calculations (Roberts and Parks 2007, 2009; Paredis et al. 2008;
Srinivasan et al. 2008; Rice 2009). Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si of June 2015 devotes two
paragraphs (51 and 52) to the ecological debt from North to South. Unsurprisingly, it was also EJOs
that introduced and developed the concept of “climate justice.” An influential role in its introduction
and dissemination was played by the CSE (Delhi) booklet of 1991, Global Warming: A Case of
Environmental Colonialism, authored by Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain (1991) pointing out that
there were subsistence carbon dioxide emissions vs. luxury carbon dioxide emissions (an idea taken up
by Shue 1994, 1999). Then in the late 1990s came the Jubilee campaign against Northern financial
bullying of the South, comparing the large ecological debt from North to South to the financial debt
from South to North (Simms et al. 1999; Simms 2005). The concept of climate debt was supported by
the World Council of Churches (Peralta 2006) and other groups including the Third World Network,
Action Aid, and Christian Aid. Turning specifically to climate justice (Bond 2013), a 2000 event in The
Hague sponsored by the New York group CorpWatch was the first known conference based on this (p.
554) term. CorpWatch had published a document in November 1999 authored by Bruno, Karliner, and
Brotsky:
11. 11. Global Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor Page 11 of 23 PRINTED
FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University
Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may
print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details
see Privacy Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Climate Justice
means, first of all, removing the causes of global warming and allowing the Earth to continue to
nourish our lives and those of all living beings. This entails radically reducing emissions of carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Climate Justice means opposing destruction wreaked by the
Greenhouse Gangsters at every step of the production and distribution process—from a moratorium on
new oil exploration, to stopping the poisoning of communities by refinery emissions—from drastic
domestic reductions in auto emissions, to the promotion of efficient and effective public transportation.
(Bruno et al. 1999) Four years later, the Durban Group for Climate Justice was launched. It has made
itself well-known by its campaigns against fake Clean Development Mechanism projects. The concept
of water justice or hydric justice is associated with a university professor, Rutgerd Boelens
(Wageningen University) but he has been working so closely with activists for many years that he
himself would no doubt like water justice or hydric justice to be seen as concept of the EJOs (Boelens
et al. 2011; Isch et al. 2012). Their favorite slogans are “water runs towards power,” and “water runs
towards money” unless stopped by civil society movements. The World Commission on Dams (WCD)
was a civil society initiative that reported its conclusions in 2000 (WCD 2000). Among its members
were representatives of business and of the World Bank, and also of conservationist organizations. It
arose because of the strength of resistance movements against dams, the most visible at the time being
the Narmada Bachao Andolan in India where Medha Patkar’s campaigns had been influential (McCully
1996). The WCD’s conclusions went directly against much of the previous literature in favor of dams,
and also against the cost–benefit analysis procedures for deciding on dam building. The WCD report
recommendations have not been implemented. Anti-dam movements continue to denounce water
enclosures along with forced acquisition of land, diversion of rivers, and dispossession and
displacement of rural and indigenous communities inhabiting territories rich in biodiversity and water
sources. They include the Brazilian MAB (Movement of People Affected by Dams) and the MAPDER
network in Mexico. Meanwhile, another new term has been appearing with greater regularity in recent
years in EJ struggles: the commons movement. This sees the commons as a crucial sector of the
economy which must be defended to preserve decommodified access to food, water, forests, and clean
air (Di Chiro 1998). Influenced by Karl Polanyi, the movement fights against old and new enclosures.
Since the late 1980s, as a reaction against Garrett Hardin’s misnamed “tragedy of the commons” that
mistook “open access” for “commons,” authors like John Kurien have defended small scale fisheries
against large scale industry, using the term “modern enclosures” or “the tragedy of
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see Privacy Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 enclosures”
(Martinez-Alier 1991). In municipal water management, paradigmatic movements against privatization
of urban water services as in Cochabamba, Bolivia, are seen internationally as sources of inspiration
for the defense of the commons in general (including access to information) and also for the defense of
the human right to water. (p. 555) Proposals to “leave oil in the soil,” also in defense of the commons,
were first put forward in 1997. We now call them Yasunizing or Ogonizing and they come from Acción
Ecológica Ecuador, ERA of Nigeria, and the Oilwatch network founded in 1995.The proposals apply
also to tar sands, to coal (“leave coal in the hole”), and shale gas. They are meant for areas of great
biodiversity value and where human rights are threatened. To such local reasons, climate change
reasons are added, based on the thesis that there are “unburnable fuels,” if we want to stop increasing
the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Temper et al. 2013) Also in the field of energy
policy, the civil society movements against nuclear energy since the 1970s gave rise to their own
concepts. One of them, in Germany, was Energiewende (energy turnaround, born in Wheyl, c. 1980)
which is now used in official public policy. Germans are using a parallel term, Wachstumwende
(growth turnaround), to translate the French décroissance or English “degrowth,” a movement in some
Northern countries, not born in EJOs but rather in alternative urban or rural movements (Hess 2009;
Chatterton and Pickerell 2010; Conill et al. 2012) that disengage mentally and practically from the
growth economy. In Germany, post-Wachstum is also used. The degrowth movement might enter into
an alliance with EJOs, for instance in its support for resource caps, meaning a policy to reduce
extraction of materials. Resource caps have been used since the 1990s (Spangenberg 1995) in terms of
calculations of “fair shares” in the use of limited resources and limited environmental space. Degrowth
is also very sympathetic to claims of an ecological debt from the South. This “degrowth” movement
has different sources (Martinez-Alier et al. 2010; Demaria et al. 2013) including the proto-ecological
economist Georgescu-Roegen (1971) but also the “post-development” movement of the 1980s of
Ashish Nandy, Gustavo Esteva, Arturo Escobar, Wolfgang Sachs, Serge Latouche, and Vandana Shiva
(Sachs 1992). An alliance between the degrowth (or steady-state economy or postWachstum)
movements in the North and the global EJ movement was proposed by (Martinez-Alier 2012) while in
South America there are calls for a “post-extractivist” economy (Gudynas 2012) leading to buen vivir
instead of economic growth. Other new concepts that are growing among the EJOs are “ecocide”
(Zierler 2011) and the call for an international environmental crimes tribunal (complementary to
demands for civil liabilities). The CSO Global Witness provides statistics on the hundreds of
environmentalists killed in many countries of the South. Refusing to participate in the game of
corporate social responsibility, the EJOs have asked for corporate accountability
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see Privacy Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 (Broad and
Cavanagh 1999; Broad 2002; Utting 2008). The new provision on the rights of nature (introduced in
Ecuador’s Constitution 2008, article 71, after an original idea from Acción Ecológica) is also popular
among the EJOs that see themselves as fighting against crimes against humanity and crimes against
nature. The movement in Southern Italy known as the eco-mafia campaigns against waste dumping,
complaining about “biocide” (Armiero and D’Alisa 2012). There must also be many other national or
regional terms of EJ. Thus, we know that one of the main materials flows in the metabolism of growing
economies is sand and gravel for the building industries. These are non-toxic materials. Nevertheless,
they give rise to some ecological distribution conflicts. In India, conflicts on sand and gravel mining
from rivers or (p. 556) beaches are particularly acute (with people getting killed in different states), and
a new label “sand mafias” was given to this phenomenon. Similarly in China, in the complaints against
pollution not only in urban areas but also in rural areas, the term “cancer villages” has begun to be used
in the last ten years or so (Lora-Wainright 2013). Researchers of such complaints in China appeal to the
notion of “popular epidemiology” born in the 1980s in the United States’ EJ movement. In a country
like Argentina there is a movement against glyphosate (used in large scale transgenic soy cultivation
introduced by Monsanto), under the name paremos de fumigar (“stop fumigating”). This links up with
the many EJ campaigns by the Pesticide Action Network (Harrison 2011). In Brazil there are terms
born from local conflicts such as justiça nos trilhos, from the movement for “justice in the railways”
against the loss of life in accidents caused by massive iron ore transport from Carajás to the export
harbours (Porto et al. 2013, for other examples). The social metabolism of cities has also produced an
international vocabulary of EJ. The US movement of the 1980s, with urban roots, insisted on the
importance of the social distribution of urban space for a good life. Environment, as defined by the
1991 People of Color Environmental Leadership conference in Washington DC, was a safe, non-
polluted place for living and making a living—environment is where we “live, work, and play.” Most
of the world population is now urban. Inside cities, there are movements introducing new concepts for
a less unsustainable economy, such as “food justice” (Aikon and Agyeman 2011), “transit justice”
(Lucas 2004), cyclist and pedestrian rights (with cyclists’ “critical mass” movements in many cities)
(Carlsson 2008), and fights against gentrification (Mitchell 2003). Such urban movements know and
use the metrics of the “ecological footprint” and other environmental indicators. They give a political
meaning to squatting (Cattaneo 2011), they remake place for groups in danger of being displaced, re-
assert traditional or new practices of land use and water harvesting, and try to protect territory from
contamination, land grabbing, gentrification, and real estate speculation (Gottlieb 2009; Gottlieb and
Joshi 2010; Anguelovski 2014).
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see Privacy Policy). Subscriber: University College London; date: 16 March 2016 Conclusion The
benefits and costs of the use of the environment are often unjustly distributed not only as regards other
species or future generations of humans but also among humans living today. But social mobilizations
over resource extraction, environmental degradation, or waste disposal are not only about the
distribution of environmental benefits and costs (expressed in economic or non-economic valuation
languages); they are also about participation in decision-making and recognition of group identities
(Schlosberg 2007; Urkidi and Walter 2011; Walker 2012; Sikor and Newell 2014). EJ research
encompasses issues of exclusion (Agarwal 2001) but also, crucially, of the potential of new leadership
of environmental movements by different social actors. For example, (p. 557) in the environmentalism
of the poor as in EJ movements in general, it is crucial to recognize the contribution women make in
poor communities both rural and urban. Women not only provide cheap or unpaid domestic work, they
more often collect water, gather wood, look for medicinal plants, tend to domestic animals, and grow
crops, and therefore they have greater knowledge and awareness of their community’s direct
dependence on the natural environment. This does not imply that women have an empathy with nature
denied to men for biological reasons. The argument is based on social roles (Agarwal 1992) as
emphasized by eco-feminist economics (Waring 1988; Mellor 2006; Perkins 2007; O’Hara 2009). In an
urban setting, it is women who often take leading positions in EJ conflicts (in contrast to labor union
struggles) as regards complaints against waste dumping, or air or water pollution. This is just one
example of how both EJ movements, and their study, goes beyond simple distributional issues—and
one example of how a conception of justice ties together a wide range of issues across the EJ spectrum.
As this chapter suggests, since the 1980s, EJOs and their networks have reinforced their battles by
introducing several concepts to political ecology that have also been taken up by academics and policy
makers. It has provided definitions of a wide array of concepts and slogans related to environmental
inequities and sustainability, and explored the connections between them in the last 30 years. Thus,
demands for “food sovereignty” from the Via Campesina fit in with climate change issues, as in the
slogan “traditional peasant agriculture cooled down the Earth” (Martinez-Alier 2011). While the
protests of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 and the World Social Forums of the 2000s
certainly pushed forward the globalization of EJ, the analysis in this chapter shows its earlier
underpinnings in the alternative “treaties” signed at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in the 1991 People of
Color Environmental Justice Leadership Summit. EJ spread through organizations like FoE, which,
while born in California as a “white” conservationist
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international bringing in EJOs which had existed since the 1980s, like CENSAT in Colombia and
WHALI in Indonesia. Many other important environmental organizations in a range of countries, such
as the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi, continued to link the idea of environmentalism of
the poor with wider notions of EJ and climate justice. With these activist and social movement roots,
the concepts of EJ were then taken up in academic research. Focusing on case studies, the field of
political ecology has, since the 1980s, studied many environmental conflicts in Southern countries.
Going beyond case studies, researchers now generate statistics of conflicts on resource extraction and
waste disposal (Ozkaynak and Rodriguez-Labajos 2012, Latorre et al. 2015). The social sustainability
sciences (human ecology, ecological economics, political ecology, environmental law, environmental
sociology, ecological anthropology, environmental history, environmental politics, urban ecology,
agroecology, industrial ecology, and more) have an academic origin, with international societies,
academic journals and handbooks, and professorships that go under such names. Many concepts and
theories have (p. 558) been produced by these booming fields of science in the last 30 years. There are
also grassroots concepts for sustainability introduced by EJOs which have been discussed here.
Concepts like EJ, the environmentalism of the poor, ecological debt, land grabbing, biopiracy,
corporate accountability, climate justice, food sovereignty, and many others, became keywords of the
EJOs and their networks in the global EJ movement before becoming also objects of academic
research. Such concepts support the global EJ movement, at the same time they also support local rural
and urban movements protecting territory and defending place-based interests and values (Escobar
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Environmental Justice: Concepts, Evidence and Politics (London: Routledge). Waring, M. (1988). If
Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics (San Francisco: Harper & Row). Zierler, D. (2011). The
Invention of Ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the Scientists Who Changed the Way We Think
About the Environment (Athens: University of Georgia Press). Joan Martinez-Alier Joan Martinez-
Alier is Professor, ICTA-Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

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